Teen Father Charged in Death of Newborn to be Adopted by Lesbian Couple

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Apr 25, 2014

Drew James Wheeler-Smith, a teenage father from Des Moines, Iowa, was arrested Wednesday and charged with neglect in connection to the death of a 4-month-old boy, who was supposed to be adopted by a lesbian couple, Des Moines, Iowa, CBS-affiliate station KCCI reports.

According to Des Moines police, Wheeler-Smith, 17, may face more charges, depending on the results of the child's autopsy.

Police say Wheeler-Smith was supposed to watch his son, Gabriel King McFarland, at 7:30 p.m. at the child's mother's home. The mother, Markeya Atkins, 16, ran an errand but when she returned at 8:20 p.m., she found the father gone and the child alone and unresponsive in his glider chair with white foam around his mouth.

Atkins said the father was not at the apartment when she returned, and when she tried calling his cell phone, the call went straight to voice mail.

"You're looking at not even an hour's worth of care with someone who doesn't live with the baby," Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax told KCCI.

Halifax told the New York Daily News that Atkins was "clearly distraught. She reacted appropriately for a parent faced with this kind of death. She isn't suspected of anything at this point.

Heidi McFarland and her partner, who the Daily News identifies as Rachel McFarland, of Ankeny, Iowa, are heartbroken over the baby's death as they planned to adopt him. Heidi McFarland said they even took the child home from the hospital in what they thought would be a smooth adoption process.

The women say they were forced to return the child to Atkins just a few days before they were going to sign the final adoption documents.

"It's like he's been taken away from you again," Rachel McFarland told the Des Moines Register. "We brought him home from the hospital," she said. "I cut his umbilical cord."

The Daily Mail reports the couple took care of the child for more than two months before they had to give the baby back to his birth mother. According to Iowa law, a birth mother has three months, plus a 31-day probation period, to change her mind about the adoption.

"It took about 30 seconds to fall in love with him," the McFarland family said in a statement. "Heidi and Rachel were the perfect parents and any love, happiness and security that Gabe had in his short life was given by them. They would have treasured him forever."

Rachel McFarland and her partner said they are grieving over the loss.

"We're just left to put the pieces back together," she said.


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